DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee’s lengthy interview with CBR’s Kiel Phegley tackles many subjects, from the pair’s transition into their new jobs to the future of Vertigo and WildStorm to the company’s 75th anniversary. But I’m guessing DiDio’s exchange with Phegley on the death of Ryan “The Atom” Choi and diversity among DC’s characters is the bit that will provide the most grist for the comment-thread mill, as DiDio says the focus on Choi’s death as opposed to the breadth of DC’s line-up of non-white characters is “inappropriate”:
There’s been a lot of discussion – and a lot of angry discussion, I’d say – coming out of some of the recent DCU storylines, specifically the death of Ryan Choi in the “Titans” Brightest Day launch…
Didio: And if I could jump in here for a second, I’d ask “What past that?” There seems to be a concern about us pulling back in diversity, and we identify Ryan Choi, but we don’t identify what more than that. If you’re talking about a single character, we can’t run backwards from the way we act and behave with our characters because we’re afraid of addressing characters of different race or putting them in stories that are bigger or more exciting, I’m sorry to say. This is an interesting thing to me, because since I’ve been here, we’ve been extraordinarily aggressive in trying to bring racial diversity and diversifying our cast of characters as much as possible. That’s been part of our agenda for the last five to eight years since I’ve been here. We’re talking about a single character with Ryan Choi, but I’d love to know about examples past that, because at the same time that we’ve got Ryan Choi, we’ve got a Great Ten series running. If you look at every team book and everything we’re doing, we go to extraordinary lengths to diversify the casts and show our audience in our books.
Well, I think for some that the focus gets put on characters that fail one way or another. At the same time as this has been going on, there’s been a lot of positive talk of Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle getting a push for live action. How do you view your role in terms of making sure that successes are carried through in a long term way?
Didio: We’re always going to be exploring different ways to go. One of the things I think Grant Morrison did extraordinarily well with “52” and “Final Crisis” was to really show that it’s not just that the heroes are U.S.-centric. The introduction of the Great Ten and the introduction of the Super Young Team are things that Grant brought that we constantly build out from. When Dwayne McDuffie was writing “Justice League of America,” we had an incredibly diverse cast of characters as we worked the Milestone characters into the DC Universe. So again, we’re taking great steps to show that we as a company reflect the audience that’s out there for our books. When we go to conventions, we look at the audience, and we see that it’s an incredible blend in terms of race and gender. Men and women read our books. We have a wide breadth of books and things going on, and to focus on one thing is inappropriate, in my opinion. It’s a mistake, because if you look at one book, you have to realize that DC Comics puts out nearly a hundred books each month, and to focus on one book, one issue, is doing a true disservice to the company, the comics and to the industry.
Is Choi’s death and the ensuing online furor a tempest in a teapot, as DiDio seems to be suggesting, or is it indicative of larger problems with the company’s superheroes? Do Blue Beetle, The Great Ten, and Dwayne McDuffie’s Milestone-featuring Justice League of America run mitigate against Choi’s removal, or do those runs’ cancellations — whether due to sales or internal maneuvering — undo whatever positive impact they might have had? Which is the “true disservice to the company, the comics and to the industry” — the death or the reaction to it? Let us know what you think.